2021 Sister Anne Joachim Moore Lecture Highlights Communities of Practice

Cuc Kim Vu, Moore Award recipient

Cuc Kim Vu '99, MS, delivered the 2021 Sister Anne Joachim Moore Lecture.

2021 Sister Anne Joachim Moore Lecture

“When everything is up in the air, it inspires a person’s creativity to guide things back to earth in a new order.”-- Sister Anne Joachim Moore

The annual Sister Anne Joachim Moore Lecture, held during the Faculty-Staff Institute that precedes the spring semester, is known for its eloquent reflection on the spirit of teaching and learning unique to the St. Catherine University community. This year’s presentation, “A Community of Practice: Meeting the Needs of the Times,” delivered by Cuc Kim Vu ‘99, MS, carried that standard forward with a fresh view of how changes in the past year have affected the community in positive ways.

“To meet the needs of the times, we need to work as communities of practice, to take collective action, to reject standardized thinking, push boundaries, and face challenges head-on,” said Vu. “We can carry over the best parts of Sr. AJ’s vision to meet the needs of our community today and into the future. What is no good is the failure to try different approaches.”

Redefining community in times of distance

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating, Vu said in her lecture that “it has pushed me to realize that a community does not have to be defined by proximity and geographical location.” Vu’s realization was rooted in pre-COVID times, when the Minneapolis campus was integrated fully into the St. Paul campus. As Vu noted, even though the physical campus was no longer open, “its culture, community, and mission remain strong.”

Communities of Practice meet the needs of the time

Vu connected this strength to the concept of Communities of Practice, a framework that describes Sr. AJ’s vision; the Minneapolis campus mission; and the culture of the students, staff, and faculty. Communities of Practice was coined by cognitive anthropologist Jean Lave and educational theorist Etienne Wenger in their 1991 book, Situated Learning. The three characteristics of this framework are:

  • the domain, where members are brought together by a shared interest or concern. 
  • the community, where members build relationships through engaging in joint activities and discussions, helping each other, and sharing information. 
  • the practice – as members in communities of practice become practitioners. 

A Community of Practice is even more important in this time of digital transformation, which has been greatly accelerated by COVID, and the long-term impacts of COVID such as job reallocations. It extends to the community’s collective response to structural racism, various additional biases, and their intersectionality.  

Sr. AJ: access and excellence

The Sister Anne Joachim Moore Lecture at the University's annual internal conference, the Teaching and Learning Network (TLN), is a prestigious faculty honor each year. This award is given to a faculty or staff member whose work reflects the goals and values that Sr. AJ infused in her leadership: access and excellence, love for the dear neighbor, and an unflagging belief in the power of the human spirit.

A 1937 graduate of St. Mary’s School of Nursing and a 1947 graduate of the St. Catherine nursing program, Sister Anne Joachim was founder and the first and only president of St. Mary’s Junior College, which merged with the then–College of St. Catherine in September 1986 to form the Minneapolis campus.

Her work in the 1960s and ’70s to transform St. Mary’s School of Nursing into a thriving two-year college earned Sr. Anne Joachim a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, in 1989 and a place of honor in St. Catherine’s “Centennial 100” in 2005. She also served as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. She died in December 2010 following a brief illness.

“I am honored to be the 2021 Sr. AJ Moore Lecture Award recipient,” said Vu. “To receive an award named after Sr. AJ and to be nominated and selected by my fellow colleagues is the highest recognition I could receive.” An assistant professor of biology in the OTA online program, Vu has taught in the Liberal Arts and Science Department at St. Catherine University since 2000, covering various biology courses such as Anatomy and Physiology, Human Disease, and Microbiology. She also instructs foundational courses (math, study skills, computer skills), and inter-professional courses (Core Integrated Learning, CIL). Vu’s area of research is in biology education, with a focus on equity and inclusion in STEM education. Vu received a Master of Biology from the University of Minnesota in 2008, and is currently pursuing her PhD.